9 Old Wives’ Tales About How To Fall Asleep More Easily That May Actually Work
If you've been tossing and turning and lying awake at night, there are certainly things you can do to help yourself relax and sleep better — and that may even include trying out a few old wives' tales about how to fall asleep more easily. Sure, many of them may sound old-fashioned. But there's a reason these tips and tricks have stuck around for decades.
Think along the lines of drinking a glass of warm milk before bed, or spraying your pillow with lavender essential oil. It sounds too simple, but rituals like these really can make all the difference, and may even help you get the right amount of sleep. "The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night in order to function best the next day," Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert and the director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program, tells Bustle. If you aren't falling asleep on time or getting enough rest, it's likely you'll start to have some uncomfortable side effects.
"All the research shows that six hours or less of sleep leads to slower reaction time, heightened anxiety, foggy brain, poor decision making, and so on," Chris Brantner, sleep expert and founder of SleepZoo, tells Bustle. So the more you can do to guarantee good rest, the better. Here, a few hacks to help you fall asleep that have stood the test of time, according to experts.
1. Drink A Warm Glass Of Milk
There's a reason why generations of people have made a habit of drinking warm milk before bed. "A warm glass of milk before bed can be part of a calming ritual to help you relax," Brantner says. The simple act of drinking something warm can be soothing enough to help you nod off.
But there's also some science to back it all up. As Brantner says, "There's ... speculation that the calcium in milk can assist melatonin production, making you more tired." So if you're having trouble falling asleep, it just may be worth a try.
2. Sleep In A Cool Room
"A cool bedroom is conducive to better sleep," Natalie Dautovich, PhD, environmental fellow at the National Sleep Foundation, tells Bustle. And that's why you'll likely fall asleep faster if you turn down the heat, or open a window when getting ready for bed.
"Room temperatures between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit are optimal," Dr. Dautovich says. "A drop in core body temperature is associated with feeling sleepy, so cooler temperatures can help with sleep onset.”
3. Spray Lavender On Your Pillow
People have long since touted the benefits of essential oils when it comes to falling asleep. And for good reason. "Essential oils like lavender and rose can be used on linens and pillowcases to help promote sleep and decrease anxiety," Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, a Chinese and integrative medicine expert, tells Bustle.
Along with relaxing self-care rituals — such as warm baths and foot rubs — these oils can "stimulate the production of oxytocin, a hormone that helps us relax and lowers cortisol, the fight-or-flight stress hormone."
4. Go To Bed At The Same Time Each Night
There's truth to the old saying "early to bed, early to rise." If you can stick to a routine — and go to bed at the same time each night — it really can help you sleep better.
"Sticking to a sleep/rising schedule has been proven to train your body and regulate sleep patterns, allowing you to drift into sleep more easily the longer you stick to the schedule," Erin Berman, a lifestyle and wellness expert at Nectar Sleep, tells Bustle. So figure out the most ideal bedtime for you, and hit the hay around that time as often as possible.
5. Don't Sleep In On The Weekends
While it's important to get those seven to nine hours of sleep, you don't want to sleep in on the weekends — if you can help it. "Your circadian rhythm acts as an internal clock that keeps your body awake during the day and signals sleep at night," Dr. Kansagra says. "When your body consistently wakes up at the same time during the week but then changes its routine during the weekend, your circadian rhythm is not able to adjust."
As a result, you might find yourself feeling sleepy in the middle of the day, or having a hard time falling asleep at night. So again, pick a time to go to bed, choose a time to wake up, and stick with it — no matter the day.
6. Read Before Bed
While it may be tempting to scroll through social media, or watch a movie before bed, reading is way more conducive to sleep. In fact, "studies have shown that reading a book for as little as 15 minutes can help start the process of sleep," Berman says.
It's all thanks to the fact reading can help you de-stress. Couple that with the lack of blue light, sound, and stimulation you tend to get from your phone/TV/laptop, and it makes perfect sense why this old-school habit can help you fall asleep.
7. Take A Warm Bath
If you've ever taken a bath before bed, then you know all about its magical sleep-inducing powers. "Falling asleep is largely about achieving relaxation and winding down so you can doze off," Brantner says. "But there's more to relaxation in a warm bath. The hot water actually draws blood flow to the skin, which subsequently lowers your body's core temperature."
And this plays into what was mentioned above, about sleeping in a cooler room. "Turns out your body actually needs to lower its core temperature in order to get to (and stay) asleep," he says. "So a warm bath helps this process along, making it easier to get to sleep."
8. Make A Cup Of Tea
Drinking tea before bed is another tradition that's pretty much guaranteed to lull you to sleep — especially if you choose the right kinds.
"A cup of chamomile tea does help the body relax into sleep," Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author of Fatigued to Fantastic!, tells Bustle. And same goes for valerian and passionflower teas. "Both are very calming and have a long history of traditional use," he says.
9. Listen To A Bedtime Story
There's a reason why bedtime stories have long been used to help children fall asleep. But they just may work for us adults, too. "Studies show that bedtime stories help ease anxiety by engaging the listener," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Instead of worrying about the day or what’s to be tomorrow, the story absorbs your attention and effectively alleviates your stress."
By listening to a relaxing audiobook, sipping some tea, and sticking to a comforting bedtime routine, you should have no trouble falling asleep.